• Labour MP raises concerns over community services procurement
  • NHS Improvement chief executive to be asked to respond 
  • 10 year contract worth more than £1bn overall 

An MP has asked health secretary Matt Hancock to halt the “potentially disastrous” procurement of community services worth more than £1bn, after claiming the process does not align with the NHS long-term plan.

Earlier this month, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group agreed to launch a tender for one single provider of adult community services under a 10 year contract. Community services in the region are currently provided by three different social enterprises.

But Karin Smyth, Labour’s MP for Bristol South, has asked Mr Hancock to “intervene as a matter of urgency”.

In her letter to the health and social care secretary, Ms Smyth said the NHS long-term plan “clearly seeks to remove barriers to place based commissioning”, and “recognises that currently the rules and processes for procurement… are skewed more towards fostering competition than to enabling rapid integration of care planning and delivery”.

Starting a procurement process for a 10 year contract is “clearly at odds with the ambitions of the proposals within the plan”, Ms Smyth wrote.

Ms Smyth added she was “concerned to see the CCG pursuing a complex legal procurement process for just some of our community services, without a clear understanding of what is required”.

She said the long-term plan offered an opportunity to create new NHS trusts which “could be used to bring together community services if that is the objective”.

Ms Smyth also questioned why no formal consultation had been carried out before the tender was launched.

In a House of Commons statement, Mr Hancock told Ms Smyth he would ask Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, to respond to her concerns.

A CCG spokeswoman said two of the three community service contracts expire in 2020, and that the winning bidder would “harmonise the current core services”.

The spokeswoman said: “No plans have been suggested to remove or relocate services at this time. If, following ongoing engagement with local people, professionals and services, any significant variations are proposed, consultation will be undertaken as appropriate.

“The provider will be required to work closely with other organisations providing health and social care, including GPs, social services, children’s health services, mental health services, hospitals, and many others.”

According to the CCG, more than 500 people gave feedback when asked about community services, including 200 respondents to an online survey, and attendees at four public meetings.

“A group of patients and carers will be involved in meeting bidders during the procurement process,” the spokeswoman added.

The incumbent providers of the area’s community services have confirmed they will bid, with two – Bristol Community Health and North Somerset Community Partnership – planning a merger if they win the contract. The other provider is Sirona. 

The new commissioned service is expected to include:

  • Integrated locality teams enabling GPs and community staff to meet and discuss patient needs at six primary care localities;
  • Urgent and reactive care teams supporting people with conditions that are getting “acutely worse”;
  • Specialist advice and support teams to educate patients and health professionals; and
  • Locality hubs which provide proactive care for patients and communities, and where a range of support and expertise can be co-located. The number and location of these hubs will be decided based on local need and suggestions from organisations that want to provide services there.

The contract includes the provider to sub-contract £3.2m worth of work to the local voluntary, community, and social enterprise sector, in a bid to help patients with health issues such as diabetes, life-limiting conditions, or mobility problems.

  •  Article updated at 4.59pm on 17 January to include information about sub-contracting work to the third sector.